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El Paso County Colorado District 49

Safety and security a priority in D 49 schools

A report published in June by the National Center for Education Statistics, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education, reported there were 93 school shootings during the prior school year. Ten years ago, they reported a total of 10 shootings in one year.David Watson, director of safety and security for El Paso County Colorado School District 49, said the May tragedy at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, shined a light on school districts and their security processes and procedures. D 49ís evaluation of security policies is ongoing.After the 2017 shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that took the lives of 17 people, D 49 formed ESCAT, which stands for enhanced security community advisory team. ìAs part of a process improvement, we began to explore how we could improve our overall security posture,î Watson said. ESCAT is composed of district administrators, school administrators, school staff, district support staff, parents, community members and students,î he said. ESCAT evaluates proposed security projects and enhancements, and prepares recommendations that are communicated to the director of safety and security, chief executive officer and then to the board of education. If an initiative gets approved by the BOE, the team begins planning for the implementation.ìUvalde also emphasized a need for school districts to maintain high trusting relationships with local law enforcement and emergency service agencies,î Watson said. ìI am happy to say that in D 49 we maintain a strong relationship with our local law enforcement and emergency services. Building strong relationships with students and community is another important part of our strategy to help ensure we provide a safe, secure and inviting learning environment.î Watson said maintaining trust helps students and community members feel safe using the Safe2Tell program for reporting concerns that could affect the well-being of students.Armed security is also present in the district. There are five school resource officers who cover three middle and three high schools. One recent initiative implemented was armed security at the elementary schools. Watson said the district has added an armed security officer to rotate throughout the elementary schools.Other strategies are utilized in the district such as emergency preparedness drills and training for staff. Schools are equipped with surveillance systems, building alarms and card key access. The district uses the Raptor Security system for check-in at each building. A visitor must show a state-issued ID card, and the Raptor system checks the sexual offender registries of all states. The system processes the information in seconds.Watson said the district continues to use the online safety dashboards Bark and Securely. They also use a risk assessment to identify students who might want to harm themselves, as well as threat assessments to identify someone who could be a potential harm to others.ìWhat has happened with Uvalde highlights the demand that the public know we are doing it right,î Watson said. ìIt is our honor and privilege to have the job of keeping our greatest assets safe ó our students and future leaders.î

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